It's a Shame...
In 1998, I had just graduated from college when Monica Lewinsky's public shaming began. I was the same age she was when she made her original mistakes. Her Very Big mistakes. At the time, like many recent graduates, I thought I had everything figured out. I gleefully joined the rest of the country in joking about the president and his mistress, and did some serious judging. Like, black belt judging. I may as well have just received my bachelors degree in Judging rather than History.
As Monica Lewinsky points out in her recent TED talk, I didn't realize that in 1998 the world was on the brink of a nuclear-explosion-sized expansion in our ability to publicly shame and humiliate one another. The internet was still pretty new, and there was no social media yet. If some of the mistakes I made in the next couple of years were suddenly the single criteria by which I was known to millions of people, I would have been devastated. So far my own mistakes haven't been exposed online, but thousands of others aren't so lucky. I'm so impressed with Monica Lewinsky's poise and courage in presenting this talk, and in using her own pain to potentially help prevent the same kind of public excoriation of others. It is incredibly vulnerable of her to jog people's memories of her Worst Ever Moment, to remind us all of what she did, in service of trying to help other people and promote more compassion in society as a whole. Her words are an assault on Shame.
What Monica Lewinsky did as a 22 year old intern was wrong. We do need enough judgment to discern right from wrong; I believe God gives us morals, not as a way to feel bad about ourselves, but as a tool for treating one another well, for loving one another well. Affairs hurt people, and weaken the institution of marriage. However, the judgment we all heaped upon her, the contempt, the sexism (we all judged her butt & thighs, too), and the superiority we, I, exhibited, was immoral as well. I owe her an apology. The rapid expansion of our ability to judge others on a mass scale needs to be met with an expansion of our own capacity for empathy and compassion as well. If, as a society, we lose our ability to "take the plank out of our own eye before the remove the speck from our brother's", that will be the real shame. Take a few minutes to watch the video, and feel free to share your comments.